It’s the Format not the Boats

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Although I am not in the camp that thinks this AC is boring, I do agree with them that it could be more exciting. However, the lack of excitement has nothing to do with the boats. Rather, it is exciting almost exclusively because of the boats. If there is an area where the excitement dial could be turned up a bit, it’s the format.

Any interesting sport has a good balance of fairness and unpredictability. After four races, this AC looks very predictable: win the start, sail clean and you win the race. Changing the platform for more traditional boats only introduces more predictability because they are known entities. There might be greater diversity in manoeuvres – e.g., we might see more hooks at the start if it is easier to get a hook in a displacement boat – but they will still be known manoeuvres. Despite the predictability of the races, The AC75s still have some unknown elements to them and areas to improve (e.g., playing with canting angle in tacks, as Mozzy Sails pointed out).  

In order to introduce more unpredictability in the race, and thus more excitement, the most logical area to tinker with is the format. For example, right now there is not a lot of wind variability on the course, which results in little room, or incentive to hunt, for passing lanes. Tacking/gybing translates into roughly a 50m loss each time, so there is a strong incentive to reduce manoeuvres and sail boundary to boundary. Increasing the size of the course would increase the wind variability, and thus lead to less predictable results.

Another area to introduce more risk taking is the penalties. JS was criticized for trying a luff in race 1 whose risk greatly outweighed its reward, which would have been a measly 50m penalty. Increase the reward for penalties and there is a greater incentive to take riskier manoeuvres. Perhaps the rule makers do not want to incentive that kind of risk taking for safety concerns. It’s just an example.

The point is that if the game isn’t exciting, change the format rules, not the equipment. When the NHL wanted to increase scoring and open up the ice, they removed the two-line pass. When the NBA began having players who could jump high enough block any shot arcing down toward the rim, they introduced goaltending to prevent that. When the NFL wanted to see more passing offence and fewer kicks, they moved the goalposts from the front to the back of the endzone.  

All this to say that the last thing I would change about this AC is the boats. They are, for me anyway, the most thrilling thing on water; I would be happy just to watch them practice. Looking back at the 72s, it seemed hard to imagine anything as exciting or more than those foiling cats. The 75s do that and give the impression that we are witnessing a prolonged Wright brothers moment in sailing.   

 
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Another possible change that I forgot to mention was alluded to by KR during yesterday's race: encourage more displacement mode sailing, perhaps by removing or lowering the lower wind limit. This would widen the speed range of the boats and place a premium on how quick you can get on your foils.

Slow can be just as exciting as fast. Arguably the most thrilling moment in AC history was the final race in '07 in 2-5kt TWS. 

 

Navig8tor

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I would love to see them race around Waiheke Island, run what you brung watch out for the shoals and the holes.

 

DLT

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Agreed. When I suggested mixing the courses up more in the Prada Cup final thread, I was told it was because I was probably an INEOS fan. The course with stable wind in strength and direction does not lend itself to excitement. And, as you also mention, the relatively small course doesn't allow for many strategic possibilities. 

I, however, think that it's not only a courses and formats problem but a boat problem too. There's a difference in the boats being exciting by themselves, which they are, and them producing good racing, which they aren't. After a while, the novelty and excitement of watching big boats foiling fast starts to go away and the racing is just too aseptic, contactless, possibility-less. Do we need displacement boats again, or a mix as you say, for this to improve? I don't know, but my guess is that the more variables you introduce, downwind sails come to mind for one, and the more possibilities for engagement you create, the higher the probability to have at least something happen in a race. If some of us as sailing fans are starting to get bored by this, I can't imagine how the general public is supposed to start enjoying it...

 

strider470

Super Anarchist
Just a crazy idea. Tell me if it's bullshit.

What if the boats must, by a rule, use a huge CZ with a minimum specified sail area in every downwind leg? And they have to hoist it soon after rounding the upwind mark? They will have to somehow find a way to dramatically slow down the downwind speed (to get an apparent wind wide enough not to kill the CZ) and point lower, but still remaining in the foiling range. There could be also more covering from behind, crew errors in changing the sails.

Honestly, a downwind leg at 45/50 kts without any possibility of overtaking is quite useless.

 
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Agreed. When I suggested mixing the courses up more in the Prada Cup final thread, I was told it was because I was probably an INEOS fan. The course with stable wind in strength and direction does not lend itself to excitement. And, as you also mention, the relatively small course doesn't allow for many strategic possibilities. 

I, however, think that it's not only a courses and formats problem but a boat problem too. There's a difference in the boats being exciting by themselves, which they are, and them producing good racing, which they aren't. After a while, the novelty and excitement of watching big boats foiling fast starts to go away and the racing is just too aseptic, contactless, possibility-less. Do we need displacement boats again, or a mix as you say, for this to improve? I don't know, but my guess is that the more variables you introduce, downwind sails come to mind for one, and the more possibilities for engagement you create, the higher the probability to have at least something happen in a race. If some of us as sailing fans are starting to get bored by this, I can't imagine how the general public is supposed to start enjoying it...
True, something should happen, but whatever that is, it would be a shame if it diminished the performance of the boats. Innovation is kind of the AC brand and DNA. Otherwise, what would distinguish it from the World Match Racing Tour? 

 
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Just a crazy idea. Tell me if it's bullshit.

What if the boats must, by a rule, use a huge CZ with a minimum specified sail area in every downwind leg? And they have to hoist it soon after rounding the upwind mark? They will have to somehow find a way to dramatically slow down the downwind speed (to get an apparent wind wide enough not to kill the CZ) and point lower, but still remaining in the foiling range. There could be also more covering from behind, crew errors in changing the sails.

Honestly, a downwind leg at 45/50 kts without any possibility of overtaking is quite useless.
I think it would be cool to see, but I'd favour rules that don't artificially decrease the boat's performance, and instead make it more unpredictable as to how that performance is maximized. 

 

Mozzy Sails

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I honestly think it's partly a bit of bad luck with the conditions and courses. I thought the round robin was excellent racing. Some races light enough to get teams in and out of displacement, and some windy enough races to force big handling errors. And shifts to boot.

Since then we've had a one sided Prada cup semi final and then very steady conditions. 

I do think two relatively simple things could make the races better. first a wider course. I can see why they went narrow to keep the boats close. But as soon as every team can nail all tacks and gybes, it makes getting the leverage to pass very difficult. 

The ore-start time could be made longer, or, the start box and start line could be made smaller. I think if 3-4 manoeuvres were required before starting rather than 1 or 2 it would expand the tactical options exponentially. 

 

DLT

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True, something should happen, but whatever that is, it would be a shame if it diminished the performance of the boats. Innovation is kind of the AC brand and DNA. Otherwise, what would distinguish it from the World Match Racing Tour? 
Innovation for innovation's sake is no good for anything. If all the AC is going to be is a battle of egos, then why don't they just make computer simulations (i.e. really expensive video games) in their respective R&D departments and have a final Geek Cup somewhere in the cloud. Of course, no one would see it or care about it, and that's one of the main objectives of the egos of the guys that run this thing. 

 
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That's a straw man argument. Innovation is obviously defined by the parameters of the sport, i.e., sailing, and not video game playing. 

 

DLT

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That's a straw man argument. Innovation is obviously defined by the parameters of the sport, i.e., sailing, and not video game playing. 
I think you missed my point: if it's only going to be about technology, and the racing, i.e. what appeals to the sailing and wider public, is bad, they might as well hold it behind closed doors as no one really cares.

 
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I think you missed my point: if it's only going to be about technology, and the racing, i.e. what appeals to the sailing and wider public, is bad, they might as well hold it behind closed doors as no one really cares.
Right, but my point was never that it should only be about technology, as you suggest. It was that if we are going to make it more interesting, that should not come at the cost of the technology, which is astounding and worthy of celebration IMHO.  

 

DLT

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Right, but my point was never that it should only be about technology, as you suggest. It was that if we are going to make it more interesting, that should not come at the cost of the technology, which is astounding and worthy of celebration IMHO.  
I was being hyperbolic, but if you watch the races in the Prada final and the AC final so far, it would seem the balance between technology and "sport", show, spectacle, entertainment, or whatever you want to call it, has been badly skewed towards the former. For me tech, as part of a sport (or any of the others mentioned above) is only good if it improves it. If it becomes a goal in an of itself, IMO, it stops not only being "astounding and worthy of celebration" as you point out, but altogether useful or desirable.  

 
If at the start of the race

the Wind is NOT heading from Top Mark to Bottom

and islands fuck with said wind

and boats go to opposite sides of the track

it's a Crap Shoot once reserved for acts of desperation for a boat so far behind it had no chance otherwise

these boats are Not in the same race, just in same place at same time

jus sayin

 
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roca

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I also thought that  bigger race course and larger boundaries would be better for nicer races, navigation etc.  but now I also realized that in that case a small straight line speed difference would be enough to win the race.

With larger race course we would probably be 4-0   (but I do not know for whom ;)  )

 

Blitzkrieg9

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I also thought that  bigger race course and larger boundaries would be better for nicer races, navigation etc.  but now I also realized that in that case a small straight line speed difference would be enough to win the race.

With larger race course we would probably be 4-0   (but I do not know for whom ;)  )
Agreed. Need to keep the course narrow; its the only chance a slightly slower boat can win through sailing skills.   Wide courses, or reaching legs, or course races will just turn into drag races of pure boat speed. Then it TRULY becomes a design competition without any regard to sailing skill. 

 
Innovation for innovation's sake is no good for anything. If all the AC is going to be is a battle of egos, then why don't they just make computer simulations (i.e. really expensive video games) in their respective R&D departments and have a final Geek Cup somewhere in the cloud. Of course, no one would see it or care about it, and that's one of the main objectives of the egos of the guys that run this thing. 
Looking at global viewership no one is seeing or care about the Cup now. NZ and Italy yes, rest of world....meh.

 
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I was being hyperbolic, but if you watch the races in the Prada final and the AC final so far, it would seem the balance between technology and "sport", show, spectacle, entertainment, or whatever you want to call it, has been badly skewed towards the former. For me tech, as part of a sport (or any of the others mentioned above) is only good if it improves it. If it becomes a goal in an of itself, IMO, it stops not only being "astounding and worthy of celebration" as you point out, but altogether useful or desirable.  
I think you've put your finger on an important limiting factor in technological development. That is, whatever the technological improvement, it must retain a sufficient connection with the sport and ideally grow the crowd rather than lose it. In other words, it must get the casual sailor to say "this is mind blowing, but I can relate to it" and to the non-sailor fan, "I don't understand this, but it is thrilling and I want to know more." (e.g., I know nothing about rugby, but I love watching it.) Perhaps the AC is falling short in growing the fan base. I just think that you can improve the races while keeping the boats as they are.  

 
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